The Thing Called Love Movie Review

The routine story of four scrappy Nashville newcomers who hope to make it as country music stars, The Thing Called Love wouldn't hold much interest if it weren't for one important fact: a clearly deteriorating River Phoenix stars as one of the four, and this is the last film he completed before his 1993 death. Director Peter Bogdonavich was probably excited by the prospect of working with the gifted Phoenix, but the resulting film is a record of his struggle to get something -- anything -- out of the incapacitated star.

In reality, the movie centers not around Phoenix but around Miranda Presley (Samantha Mathis), who lets everyone know she's "no relation" to The King but has similar musical dreams. She meets up with southern beauty queen and songwriter wannabe Linda Lue (Sandra Bullock with a rather unfortunate southern accent) and the hunky Connecticut cowboy Kyle (Dermot Mulroney), whose instrument of choice, strangely enough, is the cello. They all hang around the Bluebird Café, which hosts Nashville's most promising open mike night, the place where aspiring songwriters come to show their stuff.

Skulking around the bar is James Wright (Phoenix), who's more established on the Nashville scene. He takes a shine to the pretty Miranda, and she to him, but Kyle is always nearby stroking his cello and hoping Miranda will notice him. He might be the better choice because James is sullen, the tortured artist type who attracts Miranda with his sweet tunes and then repels her with his fear of commitment. He overcomes that fear during a spontaneous midnight marriage in Memphis, and suddenly the two are a couple, but not much of one, as James prefers to spend his days locked up a room trying to write another song.

Miranda has no patience with James, and her rage over her messed-up relationship drives her to write better songs. But the question remains whether she and James can find common ground or whether she'll turn her attention to the patient Kyle and his cello.

On paper James was probably supposed to be a more attractive character, a guy who the spunky Miranda would find irresistible, but Phoenix is unable to muster any of the charisma that made him a star in the first place. He mumbles like James Dean in Rebel without a Cause, stares at the floor, and doesn't really interact with his co-stars. You can easily imagine Bogdonavich's anguish as he realized what he had gotten himself into. Phoenix doesn't even seem to wash his hair.

Country music fans may enjoy some of the tunes as well as a multitude of "as themselves" cameos from country stars such as Trisha Yearwood and Jimmie Dale Gilmore, but that's about all The Thing Called Love has to recommend it. It's so sad that Phoenix went out not with a bang but with this whimper.

The thing called Samantha.

Cast & Crew

Director : Peter Bogdonavich

Producer :


Comments

The Thing Called Love Rating

" Weak "

Rating: PG-13, 1993

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